Czech parliament debates missile defence treaties
The Czech parliament's lower house Wednesday began debating Czech-US treaties on placing a planned US missile defence radar base on Czech soil, reported dpa.
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek lacks a clear majority for the US plans in the closely divided lower house.
He cancelled a White House meeting with US President George W Bush planned for Wednesday in order to back the treaties in the chamber.
Several lawmakers for the Greens, the junior coalition partner, either reject the project or would like to wait for a new US administration before making the decision.
Topolanek asked lawmakers to pass the treaties in the first vote and postpone the second and final vote until after a new US president takes office.
"I personally do not think that a stance of either of the candidates ... would be significantly different from the stance held by the current administration," he told the chamber.
The lower house took up the accords, a key foreign policy project of Topolanek's center-right government, at a time when the premier is weakened by significant losses in regional and Senate elections.
Analysts said that the unpopular US plans for building the missile shield base in a military zone one hour's drive south-west of Prague were among the issues behind the defeat.
Although Topolanek's Civic Democrats lost a comfortable absolute majority of 41 seats in the 81-member Senate, Topolanek's three-party governing coalition has enough votes to approve the US project in the upper house.
Washington and Prague sealed the main diplomatic deal on the radar on July 8. It is complemented by a Status of Forces Agreement, signed on September 19, which defines rules for deployment of US troops at the planned base.
The United States plans to accompany the radar with 10 interceptor missiles in Poland. Russia has strongly objected to the US plans to place military installations in former Soviet satellites.